Honda reinvented the wheel meaning of fun

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Motorcycle road tests: Honda CBR 125R and CBR 250R

There is an old saying – necessity is the mother of invention. But in the case of Honda, the phrase could be reworked slightly to necessity is the mother of reinvention.

This year has seen the launch of three new machines – the CBR 125R, CBR 250R and the CBR 600F – as well as an update to the ever-popular CB600 Hornet.

With the exception of the Hornet, they are all brand new models for 2011, although the 125 is a new and improved version of the model that first appeared in 2004, and the CBR 600F is a reinvention of Honda’s biggest-selling model of the 1990s.

Honda very generously offered me the opportunity to test all four machines at their Honda Institute in Slough, two of which are reviewed here, the other pair we’ll look at next time.

My plan, rightly or wrongly, was to start with the 125 and work up to the 600s. So first up, the CBR 125R. And if I’m being honest, this was the bike I was least looking forward to riding.

I shouldn’t have been so quick to judge. It may be a small engine with just a single cylinder but it has the looks and feel of something much bigger, its full fairing and digital instrument panel helping to add to the illusion.

With a power output of just 13.1bhp, you’re going to struggle to beat even a pushbike at the lights, and anything over 65mph is a bit of a battle to be honest – but get it on the back roads and the little 125 comes into its own.

Having gone in with such low expectations, everything about it surprised me. The ride itself is comfortable with a feeling that you are sitting in the bike, rather than on it.

And while hitting breakneck speeds is never going to be an issue, it really does love those twisties! The introduction of a larger, fatter rear tyre really helps here, and while it may not be designed for pure grip, it does offer far more stability than other bikes in the class, allowing you to throw it around those bends.

It’s very light, at just 137kg, which really allows you to throw it around those bends.

But, and probably most importantly of all for motorcyclists, it’s an enormous amount of grin-inducing fun – especially when you throw it around those bends!

If a little 125cc bike can give a 36-year-old adrenalin junkie a thrill, just image what it will do for a 17-year-old fresh from his or her CBT.

With its swish new looks and its capabilities on the road, it really is a grown-up bike for youngsters – the only thing that will give them away will be the L-plates.

My theory for the day of starting on the smallest bike and working my way up is one that has been ingrained in motorcycling for years. And it is those riders, and those looking for a cheap and stylish method of transport, at whom the CBR 250R is aimed.

Designed to take Kawasaki’s Ninja 250 head on, it also has stylish sportsbike looks – but with just 26bhp and a single cylinder engine.

At twice the capacity of the bike I’d just tested, what I would love to be able to tell you is that everything about it was twice as good.

But I can’t – and to be fair, through no fault of Honda’s but because I suffered an error of judgment. I decided to hit the M25, looking to come off a few junctions later in search of some nice sweeping roads so that I could try to put it through its paces.

What actually happened was the motorway came to a grinding halt. In both directions. Why I expected anything else of the M25 I have no idea, but it meant that pretty much all of my test time was spent on the motorway.

But it’s not all bad because while I didn’t get to flick it from side to side, what I did get was a good feel for how the bike copes in busy urban traffic. And in all fairness, that’s pretty much exactly what it was designed for.

Again, it’s comfortable to ride and, despite just having the single cylinder, doesn’t rattle the rider as much as it might, particularly when you are able to get up to higher speeds.

That engine does give the bike a particularly high-pitched whine, pretty much all the way through the rev range, but as I spent nearly all my time on the bike hardly ever getting out of second and third gear, that was to be expected I suppose!

That said, the clutch and brakes are actually pretty solid for a smaller capacity bike and it moves in and out of slow moving traffic like a dream.

And for a bike that is pretty much aimed squarely at the commuter, there’s not really much more you can ask for.

For more information on all Honda’s models visit their website at www.honda.co.uk/motorcycles

More information about getting on two wheels is available from the motorcycle industry’s campaign aimed at recruiting more new riders. For details visit www.geton.co.uk